Here's everything you need to know about the deadly Zika virus right now.

Since November 2015, there have been 4000 cases of severe brain damage and deformity in Brazil, in babies born to mothers with the little-known Zika virus.

The condition can be fatal, and authorities in four countries that are currently experiencing a surge in Zika outbreaks have taken the extreme step of telling women to delay having babies for up to two years.

There have been a handful of cases in Australia, of people who contracted it overseas, and the mosquito that can carry the virus is only found in the far north of Queensland.

Here’s everything you need to know about the virus.

“There have been a handful of cases in Australia, of people who contracted it overseas, and the mosquito that can carry the virus is only found in the far north of Queensland.”

What is it?

Zika is in the same family of viruses as yellow fever, West Nile, chikungunya and dengue. There’s no vaccine, and no medicine to treat it. It first appeared in Africa in the 1940s and has been present in Africa and Asia for over 50 years.

The first outbreak in Brazil was in May 2015, and is thought to have spread rapidly because of a lack of natural immunity in the region.

How is it spread?

Zika is spread primarily by the Aedes mosquito, but in some cases can be spread through labour, blood transfusions, lab exposure and sexual contact.

Where is it?

Central and South America: Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela

Caribbean: Barbados, Saint Martin, Haiti, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe


Oceania: Samoa

Africa: Cape Verde

Who is at risk and what are the symptoms?

Anyone who has travelled to a country with an outbreak of the virus.

Symptoms of Zika are usually mild. They include fever, headache, rash and possible pink eye. 80 per cent of infected people never know they have it.

Why is it so serious for pregnant women?

Zika can be passed on to babies through the amniotic fluid.

It can cause microcephaly, a disorder that can lead to babies being born with abnormally small heads. The condition can be fatal.

What should I do?

Pay attention to government travel warnings. If you’re pregnant, or planning on getting pregnant, the Australian government is advising you not to travel to affected areas.

If you are travelling, make sure you cover up, and wear a strong insect repellent to avoid bites.

What’s being done?

Scientists are currently working on a vaccine but there are no guarantees this will be ready anytime soon.

In the meantime health officials are doing their best to control mosquito populations with pesticides, and trying to get rid of any water receptacles where mosquitoes breed.

There is also a mutant version of the mosquito being bred that would wipe out large swathes of the population.